When the Prodigy Dance Crew wants to sharpen up a routine, the dancers head outside, to one of the world's most famous sidewalks: the Las Vegas strip.
Prodigy, made up of dancers ages 8 to 18, has won multiple titles in hip hop dance competitions, including World of Dance San Diego 2016 and 2015. They spend up to 60 hours a week rehearsing during the season — a schedule so rigorous some even choose to be homeschooled — in their Nevada studio minutes away from the Strip.
But the team has what could be perceived as a unique advantage over other competitors because they have an audience in that city that seriously never sleeps.
The crew does street shows on the strip for extra practice as well as for fundraising, said Kay More, director of Prodigy Dance Crew. But it's proved to be much more. Having the entire city of Las Vegas as an audience at their disposal has helped the team "become more versatile as a crew," she said, and flash mobs have taught them more about competing for a mass audience.
"It's definitely different than a standard audience where everyone is expected to sit and pay attention," she explained.
In addition to their rigorous rehearsal schedule, they started doing street shows in 2013 to raise money for upcoming competitions, costume and travel.
Performing in front of, say, the famed Bellagio fountain, where there's nary a dull moment or empty street, fully immerses the crew in performance — and allows them to develop new moves.
More said the crew sometimes uses their free 24/7 audience to "work out the kinks and test what is received best to the general public" before a big competition.
"We have to grab the crowd's attention and give them a reason to stop and pay attention," she said. "It's fun to see how the kids interact with dance as their communication."
So far, the biggest draw was a Prince routine, right after the singer passed away in April 2016. More said the recognizable music, something that appeals to a wide audience, helps.
"Based on what you're performing, it influences who the passersby who stop and look are," she said, whereas in a competition, it may be better to select a unique song.
Much different than the stage, More said the group has grown stronger at crowd interaction. "The crowd is so close in these street performances," she explained, "the more we make them feel included, the more fun they have."
And they know the crowds are wowed by tricks.
"Tricks are the trick," More said. "The more we throw our big tricks — breaking or b-boy, acrobatics — that's a good crowd pleaser."
But mostly, it's the best form of learning for the group. More credits street performances for the group learning to fight for attention, adjust to the situation on the spot and not get "stuck."
"It's helped them to prepare in the professional competitive world because we've had all kinds of things happen," she said.
The group has had members of the crowd join in at random, even one time with someone in a costume from the movie "Scream."
"The fact that we can be in the middle of the routine and someone joins in, you've got to learn to adapt to the environment," she said. "We're so used to the show going as planned. That's what makes it fun."